If a client requires more natural light in a room, a skylight is an attractive and effective way to achieve it. Skylights come in a wide variety of styles and shapes. A curb-mounted skylight is placed inside a purpose-built wooden frame that sits on top of the roofline, whereas a frame-in-place skylight sits inside a frame that is flush with the roofline. Sun tunnels or domed skylights can be effectively used to light up smaller, darker areas such as storage spaces and kitchens. Sun tunnels’ popularity have grown because it acts as excellent temperature-control installations, retaining heat in winter and minimising heat gain in summer.
More and more architects are turning to plastic skylights to cut costs and reduce heat build-up in summer. Plastics are lightweight, so it does not add to the structural load on the roof. Furthermore, plastic is considered as a durable material. Polycarbonate plastics, for instance, are 200 times stronger than glass.
Christo Pienaar, marketing director of AmpaPlastics, cautions that choosing the right plastic for a skylight is important if you want to enjoy the full range of benefits a plastic skylight has to offer. “We usually recommend polycarbonate because in addition to its high-impact strength, it also provides the best clarity. Acrylic sheeting is more UV-resistant, but will scratch more easily. Polypropylene is the cheapest option, but the least clear and most likely to expand,” he says.
Pienaar offers the following tips for selecting the best skylight:
• Make sure that the sheeting is glazed to improve energy-efficiency. Glazing also prevents yellowing.
• Each company offers a different lifetime guarantee on its sheeting. Pienaar suggests that one should double-check what guarantees are offered and obtain a certificate.
• In hot rooms, such as attics, a vented skylight is a better option than a fixed skylight as it will help to control the temperature.
• The size of a skylight should be about 5% of the floor area in a room with a lot of natural light and 15% in darker spaces.
• Always consult suppliers on the installation and make sure that your skylight is waterproof.